The Shmooze

Bibi's Youngest Son Joins the IDF

By Anne Cohen

Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu with sons Avner and Yair on election day in 2013 // Getty Images

Avner Netanyahu waved goodbye to mommy and daddy Netanyahu on Monday, as he began his military service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Proud papa Bibi was there to see his youngest son off, along with wife Sarah and son Yair, who has already completed his own military service. According to the Times of Israel, Avner was offered a position in the military’s media corps but chose to serve in a combat unit.

The Israeli prime minister, who served as an officer in the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, assured the other worried parents that really, he gets it. Keep calm and carry on.

“We are moved just like every mother and father who watch their son go off to the army,” he said. “We are full of pride and naturally worry. Everyone knows this, every home in Israel, and we are no different. I told Avner to take care of the state and to take care of himself.”

“I wish success to all the soldiers who are being inducted today and to all the parents who are feeling the way we do — calm down, it will be okay,” he added.

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Bibi Has the Veal — With Sheldon on the Side

By JTA

Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lunch in a Midtown Manhattan restaurant hosted by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson following his address at the United Nations General Assembly.

The lunch for five people required ever customer of the restaurant to enter through a metal detector, Page Six reported.

Netanyahu arrived at the restaurant, Fresco by Scotto, with some 30 security guards, the New York Post’s gossip page reported Monday. It also reported that the prime minister ordered veal chops.

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Beyonce Meets Bibi in J Street Campaign

By Anne Cohen

Queen Bey, meet Bibi.

A J Street campaign called “Put a Border on It” is applying Beyonce’s admittedly flawless rhetoric to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The organization has been tweeting out a poster advertising their petition calling on Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank. The slogan plays on the chorus from “All the Single Ladies” which goes “if you like it then you should have put a ring on it,” replacing it with “if you like it you should have put a border on it.”

“Countries should only build within their recognized borders,” the petition reads. “Instead of announcing new settlements, Israel should announce its commitment to peace: offer a serious proposal for a secure border between Israel and Palestine, recognized by the entire world. Israel needs peace; the Palestinians need a state. It’s time to put a border on it.”

In case you felt the need to sing along, they’ve also helpfully provided appropriate lyrics.

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Bibi's Matzo Deemed Kosher After All

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s handcrafted shmura matzah thrown out after he so publicly rolled it, patted it and put it in the oven this week?

That’s what several Israeli media outlets are claiming, with some speculating that the Kfar Chabad matzah bakery that hosted the prime minister’s videotaped baking spree trashed his unleavened bread because is not Orthodox.

Not true, say Chabad officials. A New York-based spokesman for Chabad told JTA that not only were Bibi’s matzahs not disposed of, but that they are perfectly kosher and are in a box bound for some lucky person’s seder table. (They’re unmarked, so don’t bother searching for it so you can auction it on eBay.) “One of the guys at the bakery told me, ‘I’d be happy to bring the matzah he baked into my home for Pesach,’” the spokesman, who did not want his name used, said.

The reason for the matzah misinformation?

According to Haaretz, one non-Chabad hared Orthodox media outlet, Kikar Shabat, wrote that “matzo is supposed to be made by people who follow the way of Torah.” That site, in writing about Bibi’s matzah factory visit, referred to him as “the architect of criminal sanctions,” a reference to his support for drafting haredi Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces.

Adding to the confusion is that according to the Chabad spokesman, some other matzahs from the batch made during Netanyahu’s visit did end up in the garbage can because, what with large number of journalists and photographers crowding around, not all the matzahs met the shmura matzah standard, which requires “that you could account for everything it came into contact with, from harvest to baking.”

That’s the way the matzah crumbles.

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Stephen Harper Serenades Bibi With 'Hey Jude'

By Ben Harris

(JTA) — On his first trip to Israel this week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hit all the expected stops for visiting dignitaries. He went to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, picked up an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University, and laid the cornerstone for a bird sanctuary that will soon bear his name.

But he also took a moment to do something that is apparently his trademark: performing a rocking rendition of “Hey Jude” as a beaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, look on. When he announced his intention to visit Israel at a JNF fundraiser in Toronto in December, he performed for a full 35 minutes.

His audience in Israel wasn’t nearly so, um, lucky.

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Bibi's $1,700 Scented Candle Bill

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Israel’s first family seems to like its creature comforts. The prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem spent $1,700 on scented candles and more than $4,200 on wine in 2012. There was also some $2,600 spent on mezuzahs.

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Meet the No. 2 Israeli on Facebook

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of Meytal Cohen
Meytal Cohen

For her 30th birthday, Meytal Cohen is achieving every struggling artist’s dream — she’s sticking it to her family.

On August 9th, Cohen’s Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for an original album will come to a close. With only three days to go, she has almost doubled her $60,000 goal and has 2,519 backers.

But Meytal Cohen isn’t just anyone. With 391,953 fans as of this morning, the Israeli transplant to the U.S. has more Facebook likes than both President Shimon Peres (162, 625) and model Bar Refaeli (203,642), and trailing only slightly behind Benjamin Netanyahu (460,756), making her what newspaper Yediot Aharonot called “the second most liked Israeli on the Internet.”

For this heavy metal drummer who rose to fame on Youtube — her videos have been viewed over 65,000,000 times — it’s a dream come true.

“It’s very humbling, I don’t know how [it] really happened. I’ve been shooting and uploading, note for note drum covers of my favorite songs/drummers for the last 3 years now,” she told the Forward in an interview. “I feel I have this huge data base of drum grooves and fills, and now it’s time for me to take all that I’ve learned from my favorite drummers and create something new.”

Excitement over her upcoming project aside, Cohen’s enthusiasm stems from newly found support from family members, impressed that she is achieving her dream on her terms.

This wasn’t always the case.

“My dad was killed by a drunk driver while he was standing on the sidewalk when I was in second grade, and my mom raised us all by herself,” she explained. “It was very important to her that we all go study and have a ‘serious profession that you can actually make a living of off’ so she wasn’t happy with[my decision to be a musician]. My entire family consists of lawyers, and doctors and I would get calls on a daily basis asking me if “’I’ve made it yet.’

Their attitudes changed after Cohen made it onto a front page spread in Yehidot Aharonot, one of Israel’s largest newspapers.

“It definitely helped me with my family. Suddenly I was in the newspaper and my mom was [talking about my number of followers] like it was the first time she ever heard it,” Cohen laughed. She said ‘Do you get how much that is? ‘ Like, she’s telling me.

Cohen first got into metal in high school, when her first boyfriend gave her a mixtape (Aw…). But being a female heavy metal drummer has its ups and downs. On the one hand, the surprising combination is part of Cohen’s appeal to viewers, who see a feisty woman playing an instrument traditionally associated with the John Bonhams of the world. On the other, she often has to push against stereotypes.

“Before I did Youtube I would go to audition and I felt like there was a lot of pressure for me, almost like I was representing the female gender,” she said. “It stressed me out. I didn’t want to play the stereotype and I felt that if I wasn’t good enough I was ruining it for women everywhere. “

As an Israeli, Cohen must also walk a thin line. Though she gets positive comments from fan all over the world, from Europe to South America, she also deals with haters who tell her to “go back to Auschwitz.”

Nevertheless, Cohen says she will push forward and remain vocal about her identity. “I’m proud and always very public about being an Israeli and the fact I served two years in the IDF, she said. “I am who I am, and I’m not trying to hide it. From 3 years of reading YouTube comments, I can guarantee that you can never make everybody happy…so I try to focus on the people that are.”

We would expect nothing less from the second most liked Israeli on the Internet. Bibi better watch out — Meytal Cohen is gaining on him. Fast.

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4 Biggest Snafus of Barack Obama's Israel Trip

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Well, it’s over. After three days of meeting, greeting, cheering, and even a heckle or two, President Obama has bid adieu to Israel. While the overall trip was successful, we couldn’t help but round up the some of the more, ahem, entertaining moments.

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#ObamaInIsrael Has Its Own Pinterest Page

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
President Obama, on the second day of his Israel trip.

Social media loves a good diplomatic visit. Pictures abound, attempts at speaking other languages often fail, and the agonizing possibility that something will go horribly wrong — like a car breaking down, perhaps? — makes for great third party commentary.

All of you avidly following President Obama’s trip to Israel this week will be happy to know that the visit now has its own Pinterest page, called “The Unbreakable Bond: #ObamaInIsrael.”

Run by Israeli volunteers of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy, the page features 18 boards and 198 pins showing everything from the Jerusalem preparations and the President’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport, to Obama and Bibi tasting matzo while checking out robots at the Israel Museum.

All that’s missing are nifty DIY recipes for him to try out while he’s there. Don’t worry though, we’ve got him covered.

Watch Obama say how happy he is to be in Israel — in Hebrew:

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Tuesday's Shmooze Celebrity Roundup

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Sunday’s Emmys were a font of Shmooze celebrity news. First off, Mayim Bialik made Jewish moms and dads everywhere kvell at the awards ceremony on Sunday night when she gave a shout out during a red carpet interview to popular parenting blog, Kveller.com.

Did you notice that “Two Broke Girls” star Kat Dennings was slouching all evening at the Emmys? Apparently, it was to ensure that her ample bosom did not pop out of her über-low-cut stunning scarlet strapless gown. “No matter what I do they’re there, so…‬,” the actress joshed. Denning’s date, boyfriend Nick Zano’s main assignment was to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. “He has been alerted to the possibility of emergency and he’s always primed and ready,” she said.

Gideon Raff, the original creator of the Israeli series “Hatufim,” on which Showtime’s “Homeland” is based, was on hand to receive the Emmy for the best writing in a drama series. He accepted it along with Alex Ganza and Howard Gordon, the American show’s executive producers.

In her acceptance speech for the award for outstanding actress in a drama series, Claire Danes showed off her guttural pronunciation skills as she acknowledged her co-star Mandy Patinkin. “Challah!” she exclaimed after mentioning Patinkin’s name. Was this some inside joke? Or maybe a reference to the round variety of the traditional Jewish bread we eat on the High Holidays? Speculation abounded on Twitter.

In other news, the Jewish Council for Education and Research’s “Let My People Vote” video ad starring the Sarah Silverman has quickly topped the political charts.

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher’s PDA fest continued this past weekend. The pair were spotted canoodling in various spots around the Big Apple.

Israel is expecting visits from Chuck Norris, who accepted an invitation from Likud MK Danny Danon, as well as from RedFoo (the guy with the big hair and oversized glasses) of the recently broken-up LMFAO.

Full frontal? No prob. Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt on “New Girl,” says he’s ready and willing to portray Christian Grey in the upcoming film version of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

In sad news, it was announced that Bonnie Franklin has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Gen Xers, in particular, will recall that Franklin, 68, played mom to Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips’ teenage characters on the “One Day At A Time” sitcom from 1975 to 1984.

Finally, as the Day of Atonement descends upon us, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres are making a conciliatory gesture…at least for Kol Nidrei. The two will pray together on Erev Yom Kippur at a Jerusalem synagogue close to the President’s official residence.

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Bibi On Rye?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Funny or Die

What’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doing in a trailer for Adam Sandler’s new movie? And what is he doing in between some slices of rye bread?

These are the lingering questions one has after watching a Funny of Die advertising spot cut by Andy Samberg, who also stars in “That’s My Boy.” The film is about a young teenage boy named Donny (Sandler) who fathers and raises his son Todd (Samberg) until Todd is 18. The immature, deadbeat dad later shows up on the eve of the successful son’s wedding, and all hell breaks loose.

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Jerusalem Post Ranks 50 Influential Jews

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images
Jon Stewart took #7 on the Jerusalem Post list.

Mazel tov, Benjamin “King Bibi” Netanyahu. You’re officially the most influential Jew in the world, according to the Jerusalem Post’s just-released ranking of the world’s 50 most significant Semites.

And good on you, (Jon Stewart #7). The Post thinks you’ve got more juice than Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (#9) and Eric Cantor (#19) —and all of you rate higher than Shimon Peres (#22) and George Soros (#38).

But the Post’s choices — Canadian rapper Drake at #16? Natalie Portman at #36? — have sparked some good-natured hand-wringing in the blogosphere.

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Is Natan Eshel Really Gone?

By Nathan Jeffay

In most of the world, leaving a job means exactly that — moving on. In this part of the Middle East, however, it doesn’t seem to mean much. Take, for example, two of the most important Palestinian figures. Does anyone recall that the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat actually resigned last year following the leak of the so-called Palestine Papers? And does anyone remember that, also last year, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad was meant to be making an exit after the Fatah-Hamas unity deal, but he never left and has just had his position renewed after a cabinet reshuffle.

And now we hear of what Natan Eshel is up to. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff, he resigned in February amid scandal — he had admitted sexual harassment of a female staffer and signed a plea bargain admitting misconduct that it was none other than Eshel who brokered the recent unity deal between the Likud and Kadima parties which saved the country from elections. According to Yediot he still has the use of a high-end government car and a cell phone, paid for by the State. Oh, and he is also receiving NIS 40,000 (over $10,000) a month.

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What Do Bibi and Chelsea Handler Have in Common?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Time

Has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been reading that classic self-help book by Dale Carnegie? It would appear, at least according to Time magazine’s latest list, that he has indeed been winning friends and influencing people. For the second year and a row, Bibi has been named by Time as one of “The100 Most Influential People in the World.”

The magazine calls Netanyahu a “transformational leader.” Ranking Bibi among the world’s great leaders, Eric Cantor, who wrote a short article about the Prime Minister for the list, described him as “one of these iconic Israelis, a strong, determined leader who has excelled during a lifetime of service to the state of Israel.” Cantor further noted that Netanyahu “deserves credit for drawing attention to the threat Iran poses to Israel, to America, to the region, to its own people and to the free world.”

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Bibi’s 5,000 Indonesian Facebook Fans

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no different from the rest of us when it comes to trying to boost our online presence and optimize our social networking reach. You may have heard about his recent efforts to get more people to “like” his official Facebook page, some or which got him into a little trouble.

Well, now he’s boasting about the number of “friends” he has (200,000 at last count). The only problem is that — at least in this case — the numbers kind of lie.

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Eliezer Melamed Criticizes Netanyahu's 'Inflated Ego'

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accustomed to mockery from the left for his conviction that Israel is on the brink of grave danger from Iran. But now he faces harsh words from one of the far right’s most renowned ideologues.

Eliezer Melamed, the very same rabbi who caused furor and state sanctions against his yeshiva for saying that troops told to evacuate settlements or outposts should disobey, has rattled off a stinging and very personal attack against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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Teens Not Interested in Bibi’s Outreach Video

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

In a move to reach Israeli youth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video of himself inviting young people ages 13-18 to propose new ideas and legislative proposals to a special meeting of the Israeli government. But unfortunately for Bibi, it looks like the kids just aren’t that into him or his government.

We’re definitely not talking about a viral video here. Since the clip was posted on YouTube on February 29, it has had only 282 views. The thought of being chosen as one of five people to sit next to the prime minister and present a suggestion for how the government could be doing things differently just doesn’t seem to appeal to the teens. Is it Bibi they don’t like? Or do they just think that sitting around a boardroom table with a bunch of suits is boring and uncool? It’s hard to say. Could be either or both.

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Bibi and the Tasty Nuclear Duck

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Benjamin Netanyahu’s now-famous duck comment has caused a great deal of amusement at his expense, most famously from this animated remix. Now, the venerated British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, has set its best comic writers on Bibi.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck and it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck,” said the Israeli Prime Minister at AIPAC.

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Madonna Fans To Bibi: Hold Off On Iran Strike

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Madonna’s upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, or the Iranian nuclear crisis: Which is more important? The answer is obvious to some of the Queen of Pop’s Israeli fans.

Confident that they have their priorities straight and that their cause is just, Madonna fans are pleading with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on striking Iran until after the singer’s concert has taken place at the Ramat Gan Stadium on May 29. And just like any other protest group, they have set up a Facebook page — this one replete with a photo of Bibi posing with Madge, likely taken on one of her recent visits to the Holy Land). It’s called, “Bibi, No War with Iran until after Madonna’s performance on May 29.” Not too snappy a title, but they do get their point across.

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Ovadia Yosef Frees Man Who Tried to Kill Him

By Nathan Jeffay

What would be your attitude toward someone who had plotted to kill you? I can’t help thinking that I’d be more than a little broiges.

You would imagine that the stakes are upped a little when the target of the murder plot is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party. After all, his would-be murderer was planning his death as an act of terrorism, and Yosef famously said in 2001 that it is “forbidden to be merciful” to Palestinian terrorists. People initially presumed that the “them” referred to Palestinians in general, but he then clarified that he meant Arab terrorists.

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